25 Alternative Facts of Parenthood

pinocchio1I’m no politician, but I know a fancy phrase for bullshit when I see one.  It doesn’t bode well when you’re the actual advisor to the President of the United States of America. But as a parent? Let’s just say there hasn’t been a better made-up word since “threenager.”

When you have kids, lying becomes second nature. No one is saying you’re proud of it, but it’s true. The older your kids get, the more quickly you can come up with the perfect line of bullshit to suit every situation. Few parents will make it through their kids’ childhood without crafting a few necessary “alternative facts” here and there. I like to think of it as a survival tactic. So to celebrate my new favorite expression, I thought I’d share some of my favorite alternative facts of parenthood.
“The elf is watching everything you do and Santa is leaving you nothing!”

“No I’m not on Facebook, I’m fact checking your homework assignment.”

“What’s wine? This is grape juice.”

“Daddy was just in the bed checking mommy’s legs for tick bites.”

“Caillou isn’t on today. Actually, they cancelled it. Forever. Ditto for Max and Ruby.”

“Only grownups are allowed in the restaurant on date night.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“If you call 911 when there is no emergency, the police will come and take you to jail.”

“I LOVED doing homework as a kid.”

“Wow! That is the prettiest stick figure I’ve ever seen!”

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose — as long as you had fun!”

“Your face will freeze like that” (technically this is true because I’ll snap a pic and share it on Instagram, where it will remain frozen forever).

“Sure, I’d love for you to help me cook dinner.”

“No, I don’t mind waiting (an eternity) while you button your own coat.”

“My kid will NEVER get away with (insert literally any offense at all) when he/she is a teenager.”

“It gets easier after the terrible twos.”

(To your spouse after being home with the kids all day) “I’m just gonna take a fast shower, be out in a few minutes.”

“I’m ONLY going to Target for diapers.”

“My Costco bill will be under $300 today.”

“I don’t have a favorite kid.”

“You’re never watching YouTube again!”

“Sure, I want to see your Minecraft house.”

“I missed you guys so much while you were in school today!”

“Yes, you can cut your finger off with a butter knife.” (also technically true, right Uncle Mike?)

“You can only use your tablet for ONE hour today.”

What are some of your favorite alternative facts in parenting?

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It’s About Time

time

I just came across this on a lovely friend’s Facebook page and man, it hit me right in the feels.

Go ahead, read it. Then read it again, take it in.

Ugh, right?

Time. The only truly constant aspect of all of our lives. It’s the one thing we all share. No matter who we are or what we are doing, time is always, always passing us by.

Some of us are wishing for more time.

Hell, I want at least six or seven more hours in the day. I want to stop running late for every appointment, party, play date, and errand on my calendar. I want to tack on an extra hour between my first alarm and second snooze in the morning. I want to add an extra hour before it’s time to get the kids from school. Girls’ night out needs to be at least two hours longer to make up for how rarely I actually attend one.

Some of us want to freeze time.

I’m watching my kids grow so quickly it breaks my heart. My oldest turns nine this year. NINE. Almost into the double digits. He’s getting smarter and more mature every day, and I swear he grows at least six inches in his sleep every night. But he still gives me a huge hug every day when I pick him up from school, despite his friends being fully able to see, and it’s a reminder that he’ll be my baby boy forever (even when he towers over mommy like most boys eventually do).

My youngest said goodbye to toddlerhood a few years ago, along with her chubby cheeks and baby curls. But when she laughs really hard, the giggles still come straight from her belly like they did when she could barely talk, and the sound makes me weak with love for her.

I know her belly laughs are as numbered as his afterschool hugs; I just don’t know how many I have left. I never know when the last one is coming, so I cherish each one as though there will be no more.  In my own, way I freeze time.

Some of us are wishing time away.

I remember waiting impatiently for my husband to come home from Iraq and meet our newborn son, and I admit I wished away the first three months of his tiny life. Who could blame me?

I wished away two pregnancies like any normal bloated, exhausted, aching woman carrying the equivalent of a small watermelon in her uterus would. But that was still 18 months of my life I watched swirl down the one-way drain of time.

When I was a stay-at-home-mom, I spent half the day staring at the clock, wishing away hour after hour until my husband came home to save me from the endless pit of loneliness and boredom. I measured time in TV shows: 8am Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, 11am Dino Dan, 1pm Day of Our Lives. By the time Dr. Phil came on I knew I was almost there. Tick tock, tick tock.

Time connects us all. It’s as though the earth is nothing more than a giant hourglass and we’re all just one single grain of sand making our way from the top to the bottom, birth to death. You can love or hate the people around you, but they’re merely sand like you, passing time all the same.

Some of us are running out of time. My parents are always telling me they are “in the September of their lives.” It sounds so depressing, right? But I get it. We are all getting older, we know our time is limited. We’re all just one cancer diagnosis or terrifying car crash or sudden heart attack away from the bottom of the hourglass.

Some of us are even wasting time, which is perhaps the biggest tragedy of all. In the wrong profession. The wrong location. The wrong marriage. The wrong state of mind. We waste time for a thousand different reasons, but none of them are really justified.

Because if there’s one thing being a slave to time has made me realize, it’s that time doesn’t really matter at all—hell, it doesn’t even exist. Whether you’re running out of time, hoping for more time, freezing time, wasting time, wishing time away – it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you do with the time you have. The places you go, the people you meet, the friends you make, the love you share, the family you have.

It’s not about the time you have. It’s about the times you make.

You’re Stronger Than You Think

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“Mommy I’m scared. I can’t breathe.”

You never want to hear your child say that to you. And when my four-year-old daughter recently said it to me one night around 2am when her cough went from 0-60 out of nowhere, I didn’t waste a second getting her to the emergency room.

This isn’t going to be the kind of thing where I pat myself on the back for getting my kid the medical attention she needed one scary night just in the nick of time. It’s a fairly basic requirement to keep your kid alive and I did what any normal parent would do in the situation. In fact, I spent the following seven hours pacing nervously around her hospital room, mentally berating myself for all the things I may have done wrong that, in my frazzled state, I thought may have landed her in that room in the first place.

You see, I’m THAT mom. The one who thinks the worst, all the time. The one who worries, who panics, who overthinks and overreacts. I know, I know. We’re parents, we all do that. But when the shit hits the fan, I retreat back into my shell like a terrified turtle — frozen, shaking, crying, feeling sick to my stomach and envisioning every worst-case scenario on earth.

Maybe this is you too. Maybe you’re a worrier, a crier, a freaker-outer like me. Maybe not by nature, but when it comes to your kids at least. Maybe you also often wonder how quickly your legs would turn to jello and your lunch would come back up if your world were to suddenly fall apart at the seams. If so, maybe now I can offer you some hope.

I drove as fast as the gas pedal would allow, flying past red light after red light, one eye glued to the road and the other to my daughter strapped into her car seat behind me. Finally at the ER, we sat for a minute and waited for a nurse while my baby cried and clung to my shoulders, calling out for me in between her tiny gasps for air. I could feel my body trembling from the inside, felt the desperate sobs gathering at back of my throat and the tears welling forcefully under my eyelids. I felt myself breaking down.

This is the moment you are not prepared for as a parent, should you ever find yourself in this situation. This is something you will not learn to handle in a parenting class or a self-help book. This is that make-or-break moment when you are faced with a choice. You can choose to fall apart in this moment, let your anxiety win, let the terror wash over you and just lose your mind completely. 

Or this is the moment you quickly realize there is no choice to be made, and that there never really was. And I promise you, you won’t fall apart. No, instead you will be hypnotized by the adrenaline. Your mommy autopilot will kick in. You’ll push that terror so far back inside that you may never see it again. You’ll put on the bravest face you can muster for your child and you WILL power through it. You got this, mama. 

So in perhaps the strongest moment of my entire life, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and shook it all off. I held my little girl in my arms as tightly as I could and I swore to her that she was going to be absolutely, positively fine. Inwardly, I made the same promise to myself.

If you’re the type who is normally good under pressure, this probably isn’t as big of a deal to you as it seems to me. But in that moment, I will never forget the way I looked fear dead in the face and told it to fuck off. For just a little while, for my sweet, scared baby girl, I was her superhero. I didn’t recognize myself, overcome by this sudden strength I never knew I was capable of. I’m grateful for it, and I sleep a little better now knowing I had that cape all along, tucked away and waiting for the day I’d need to put it on. I really hope I never need it again, but if I do at least I know it’s there.

In case you’re wondering, my daughter is perfectly fine now. I may have kept her calm, but her amazing nurses and doctors kept her alive. I can’t thank them enough.

People Think I’m a Bitch

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They’re wrong. Well, for the most part. I’m actually a pretty nice person, once you get to know me. My problem is that I am separated from the outside world by a very thick cement wall of social anxiety, and it prevents me from functioning normally when interacting with people I don’t know very well.

Whereas most people can have a normal conversation with an acquaintance and then proceed to go about their day as planned, I will spend an additional half hour after our interaction has ended psychoanalyzing every word I said and wondering if I sounded as stupid aloud as I did in my own head. I’ll wonder if I spoke too loudly and called unwanted attention to myself; if others were gawking at the tiny rip in the sleeve of my jacket or the mud peeking out from the bottom of my shoes; if I was regarded as a shitty parent because my kids weren’t using their “inside voices” (while also publicly beating the crap out of each other).

In short, I will waste a lot of time psychotically obsessing over a whole world of shit that DOESN’T MATTER AT ALL. And it’s not even that I really care that much what other people think of me (hence this entire website devoted to my half-assed parenting and other personal problems). I just don’t enjoy the uncomfortable feeling of being scrutinized and consequently unaccepted. It kinda makes my stomach hurt.

So that’s why I tend to avoid 99% of unnecessary social interactions with people I don’t know.

Because I’m the idiot who is incapable of handling basic conversations with other adults without the help of alcohol or maybe narcotics. I’m the babbling moron who hasn’t mastered the art of small talk and probably never will. I’m the jerk who will pretend I don’t know you at all even though I have walked past you while picking my child up from school at least 100 times since he started elementary school three years ago. I’m the asshole who would rather stare at my foot, a tree, parked cars, my phone, anything in the vicinity without a pulse, just to avoid making eye contact with you, person who I kinda-sorta know but kinda-sorta don’t.

And speaking of picking my son up from school– there is no other activity within my daily life which I despise so vehemently.  Talk about social anxiety to the max. Everyone’s chatting, Lizzie lost another tooth, Joey got a soccer award, yada yada yada blah blah blah. I don’t totally mind discussing the difficulty of the recent second grade math test with these ladies, honestly, but I’m just not the type to walk right up to you and start the conversation. It feels weird. What if you don’t really want to talk to me? What if you just want to talk to this other girl who is suddenly approaching us and you don’t want the responsibility of introducing us? What if you don’t introduce us and I just stand there awkwardly while you start talking about someone I don’t even know, inching away ever-so-slowly, silently begging the powers-that-be to make my son’s class be dismissed first today. And then I will say another prayer that he doesn’t ask to stick around and play with his friends in the schoolyard for a little while, thus extending this unpleasant social situation by an extremely painful extra half hour.

This is where I could continue to list the myriad of stressful situations for a socially anxious parent like myself, running the gamut all the way from play dates to birthday parties. But I won’t. If your anxiety is anything like mine, you know how horrible they are. Let’s not even get into it.

If my behavior sounds silly to you, then you clearly aren’t plagued by social anxiety. You are the head of the PTA, the Class Mom, the good neighbor, a person with social circles galore. You and I will never be the same. Which is okay.

Just please understand that I’m not really that much of a bitch. If you approach me and mention that pain-in-the-ass math test, I’ll agree that it was difficult. I’ll talk about how much my son hates studying too, and commiserate with you over how many days are left until the summer vacation. I’ll be surprisingly friendly and kind, maybe even a little bit funny.

But just know that afterward, I will silently berate myself for every weird thing I’ll definitely think I might have said and then wonder if you think I’m the biggest idiot you have met in your life. And the next time we see each other, don’t expect more than a half smile or tiny wave as I rush wildly past you to go hide behind a tree.

I swear it isn’t you. It’s me.

The Thing About Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences

preschool chairs

Photo credit: Kevin Nealon. Yes, my child’s preschool teachers are famous comedians.

 

Preschool parent teacher conferences. Sigh. What’s the point? You don’t want to be there. Your kid’s teacher doesn’t want to be there. But through some glitch in the guilt-inducing dynamic of modern parenthood, here you both are.

If you’re on the first kid, you might not mind it so much. You may even be excited about the meeting, visions of your toddler’s Picasso-esque artwork and miniature Mozart music abilities dancing in your head. “She’s the sweetest, most intelligent, mature, loving, and generous  four-year old I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing” the teacher will gush. You’ll swoon with delight as the compliments continue until your head is so big it fills the entire classroom and you both float into outer space.

Uh, yeahhhh….good luck with all that. Here’s how it really goes down.

You plop down in a chair seemingly designed for members of the Lollipop Guild. Your child’s teacher sits directly across from you in a seat equally as ridiculous. You scan the room for signs of tornadoes and flying monkeys.

Off to gleaming start.

The teacher pulls out your child’s latest artwork, a moving depiction of the friendship between an 18-legged purple giraffe and her pet cloud. She tells you that the detail on the drawing is impressive and you bob your head in agreement, wondering wtf they spike the juice boxes with around here and how you can get your hands on one.

Next she hands you a page that appears to be your child’s attempt at writing her own name. The first letter is clear as day, and you temporarily swell with pride. Her fierce little “S” has more curves than Beyonce! And then you peer at the following 13 or so letters that may or may not be written entirely in Greek. Or Klingon. Who could tell? You warily glance up at the wall where little Liam scrawled his own name on a drawing like some preschool handwriting prodigy. Pshaw, whatever. Anyone could write a measly four little letters. Moving on.

The teacher explains that your child is doing well in most areas but needs improvement on holding pencils the right way. Apparently she uses the same technique for drafting her masterpieces as she does for stabbing her toaster waffles in the morning. Hopefully she enjoys writing as much as she enjoys drowning food in maple syrup.

Next the teacher asks if you have any questions and that’s when you really start to squirm. What do the other parents usually ask? How can she enhance her cognitive development? What activities will improve her gross motor skills? Are her social interactions on par with what is expected for her age group?

The thing is, all you really want to know is whether she wipes her boogers on the classroom furniture as frequently as she does at home. And where the hell does that little witch Jenna live? You’ve got a bone to pick with her about drawing on other kids’ Peppa Pig blankets.

So you reluctantly tell the teacher that, no, you have no questions. You then stare awkwardly at each other for a moment, not sure if the meeting is over or whether she’s waiting to divulge some hidden gem about your kid’s sick cymbal skills during music time or her unfailing ability to nap far longer than any of the other kids in the class. After a moment you concede that your child is just about as normal as any other four-year-old. You need to hightail it home to catch a new Grey’s Anatomy anyway.

Quietly praying that the shrunken chair doesn’t tag along for the ride when you finally yank your ass up out of it,  you thank the teacher politely and say goodbye. You then walk back to your car wondering if other parents feel as underwhelmed by these things as you do, or if you are really just an asshole.

A Letter to My Daughter on the Week of Her Fourth Birthday

lala bdayTo my sweet little girl,

It is with a bittersweet heart that I am writing this letter to you tonight. In just a few short days you will be four years old, and I have to admit it’s crushing me. For some parents, the fourth birthday is probably just another in a string of character-themed pizza parties laden with decorations and gifts and too much cake. But to me it’s so much more than that. (Well of course, it’s that too!)

This week, my sweet baby girl, marks the end of an era—one through which you toddled quite innocently, seemingly unaware you were clutching us all in the palm of your tiny little hand. It’s been that way since your very first breath and likely won’t change anytime soon. But you will change, baby girl. Now as you teeter on the brink of girlhood, it’s become painfully evident that your toddler years will soon be as distant a memory as your chubby cheeks and baby giggles.

Already your days are spent in school, learning the ABC’s and 123’s you’ll find familiar from the countless books we read together and the Mickey Mouse cartoons you watched every morning. Now in the morning, instead of our usual breakfast and cuddles, I leave you with someone else for a whole entire day to make friends I never met and eat snacks I didn’t fix and create projects I won’t see until the last day of school. My faithful and silly sidekick is no longer glued to my hip, tagging along on our daily errands or following behind as I clean the house and cook meals, asking hundreds of questions about every little thing (funny questions, ridiculous questions, and at times surprisingly profound questions).

While I know I still have a few years until the dolls and stuffed animals and tea parties are replaced by makeup and crushes and cell phones, I’m sure I’ll barely blink an eye before those years arrive. If there is anything being a parent has taught me, it’s how quickly our precious time flies by. You have to hang onto every moment.

I look back on these past four years and can’t help but wonder if I’ve done an adequate job preparing you for what lies ahead. They say the brain is still developing in these early stages, and I question whether I’ve helped the process along as much as I could have. I wonder if we read enough books, sang enough songs, played enough games.  If we danced around in our pajamas to pop songs on the radio enough. If we went out for ice cream enough. If I answered all your questions enough. Did I spend too much time working? Did you spend too much time watching the Disney Channel? What else am I doing wrong? How will I ever know? I don’t get a redo, there are no second chances here.

Sometimes I see the way you look at me, your eyes wide with the most unconditional love in the world, and it breaks my heart because I know that look won’t last forever. Someday you’ll learn that I’m nowhere near as perfect as you think. And someday you’ll learn that not every problem is quickly erased with a kiss and a hug from Mommy.

I have my own memories of being four years old, bits and pieces of moments forever etched in my mind, and I hope the ones you begin to collect will be better than mine. My happiest memories were often overshadowed by my anxiety, even at such a young age. I pray, oh how I pray, you aren’t plagued by those same anxieties that inexplicably tainted my childhood. I will do absolutely anything in my power to keep you from feeling that pain. Please don’t ever forget that. I am always here for you, my girl. Always.

You’re just four years old and already one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. And not just outside but inside as well. That is such a cliché, I know. But with you it’s an undeniable truth. Yes, I am your mother so of course I am biased. But I see the way others react to you, my sweet girl. You’re positively mesmerizing. I hope you know what a wonderful person you are and will surely grow up to be. I hope you have the confidence I never had, and I hope you’ll use it to do great things. I look at you and your older brother, my world and absolute everything, and I know you’re both destined for unbelieveable things. All you have to do is stay on the right track and I’ll guide you there as best as I can. I may be getting ahead of myself, you’re both still so young. But this stuff is important and you need to know now.

Maybe you’ll understand someday when your own youngest child emerges from toddlerhood.

In a few days I will kiss you goodnight as you drift off to sleep as a three-year-old for the last time. I will hold back my tears and welcome the next phase of your life, our life, with open arms. You’ll blow out your candles and rip open your presents, and you’ll experience the unparalleled joy of a child on her birthday, and again I’ll hold back my tears because I will experience a joy similarly unparalleled. Seeing you happy, seeing you healthy, and watching you grow into this amazing little person, well, it’s a feeling like no other. I can’t thank you enough for giving me that joy.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl. I love you to the end of the galaxy and back.

Love Always,
Mommy

Why I’m Terrified of the Next Stage

At least once a day I find myself thinking: “Nope! I didn’t sign up for this. Parenthood, screw you.”

Because this stuff is not easy. Like, realllllly not easy. Like set the difficulty level on maximum, tie a blindfold around your head, and then try to beat the game kind of not easy.

And it’s somehow just getting worse every day.

But how is that even possible? I’ve spent 20 whole months of my life walking around with another human inside my body. I literally had a watermelon-sized PERSON squirming away in my uterus, smashed up against my internal organs, stealing my vital nutrients and playing trampoline with my bladder. And that was the EASY PART!

After that came the sleepless nights and unforgettable days of being nothing more than a caffeine-fueled zombie with leaking tits. I’ll never forget the miserable nights when my colicky baby would scream at maximum lung capacity for four hours at a time and it was all I could do not to rip my own ears off and feed them to the dog. And the new parent anxiety? The trepidation associated with realizing there is a tiny little person whose life lies entirely in your hands and there is no reset button to press when you screw up? The fear of this realization is paralyzing, especially to those of us riddled with anxiety to begin with.

And what’s next? The toddler shit show. You know, when your sweet little chubby-cheeked angel somehow evolves into this shit-talking baby/person hybrid that still does all the annoying baby stuff but now thinks it’s a tiny grown up and yells at you every fifteen seconds. If you’re not yet in this phase, someday you will find your two young children huddled in a corner holding “safety” scissors and hacking away at each other’s hair, and you’ll fight back tears of frustration as you think to yourself “I can’t wait until this toddler shit is over, it can’t be worse than this.”

Oh, but I think it can. And it will.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

When my kids were really young and they were glued to my hip 24/7, sympathetic people would occasionally say “don’t worry, it gets better when they get a little bigger and you don’t need to be on top of them all the time.” Although they were probably just saying that to steer the conversation away from the latest object my kid stuck up her nose, they were partially right. There is a certain undeniable freedom that goes along with being able to turn your back for ten seconds without the fear of finding a child swinging from a cabinet or eating raw chicken out of the garbage can.

But once you emerge from the sleep-deprived hell-on-earth of raising toddlers, you’re far from in the clear. When people used to tell me “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems,” I wanted to punch them in the throat. I admit it wasn’t just their condescending attitude that pissed me off—it was the underlying fear that I would someday learn they were actually telling the truth. And now as I watch my own children each graduate from toddlerhood, I realize they are about to enter a world where they’re old enough to start remembering stuff. There’s no longer a margin for error. One bad screw-up and they’re like scarred for life, you guys. How is that for pressure?

Once toddlerhood is over, it dawns on you that that all you really needed to fix little kid problems was a big stack of baby wipes and a little patience. Or preferably, a good set of ear plugs. But these big kid problems are a doozy. Your kid starts coming home from school with questions that you’d rather fake your own death than answer. Let’s just say they don’t bat their innocent lashes at you and inquire where babies come from anymore. Oh, and the homework assignments? I can answer Final Jeopardy correctly at least once a week, yet I have to Google my son’s second grade homework problems for answers. WTF?

I’m not sure how much worse it gets from here, but I’ve read enough horror stories about texting and driving to know that the crap I’m dealing with now is fucking peanuts compared to what’s coming next. And I’m not ready for any of it.